“The 17th is collapsing, and our flank is exposed. Order all surviving units to retreat. It’s a race to Port Aruna.“—Captain Stevrous Stark, senior Imperial Guard officer on Dar Sai.
Relentless xeno assault
PDF troops responded as best they could, according to survivors. A squadron of Scout Sentinels wiped out one detachment of gun drones and dropped several Crisis Suits. Meanwhile, artillery pummeled Fire Warriors advancing across the wooded hill.
The Tau attack, however, was aggressive and highly effective. Fire Warriors in the woods continued to put pressure on PDF troopers, who began to give ground. That withdrawal became a rout when xeno gun drones appeared to their rear and began shooting.
The lynchpin of the Imperial artillery, a Wyvern battery, was destroyed by a Crisis Suit team and ,when other Crisis Suits slaughtered half of an infantry squad, the entire right flank broke and ran.
The left flank of Ceti Company made a valiant effort to withdraw in good order. Although under heavy fire from Tau armor, a thick copse of woods to its front protected several platoons from a direct infantry assault by the xenos.
“We had our nfantry with flamers at the edge of the woods and, if the Tau wanted to come at us, we were ready for them,” said one survivor of the attack. “But they knew we were there, and they weren’t all that eager for a ‘hot’ fight.”
The withdrawal of these troops, however, was hampered by the presence of yet more Tau infantry and Crisis Suits to the company’s rear. This new force took a position in the cover of woods along the Imperial path of retreat, and the xenos bided their time, Imperial authorities said. “The Tau armor was winning the fight for them, so rather than take casualties, they waited until the right moment.”
From bad to worse
At this moment, a Valkyrie gunship appeared over the fighting to provide support. The first strafing run of the gunship failed miserable, however, with its missile attacks missing xeno troop concentrations by wide margins. In a second run, the aircraft’s fire also went wide and wiped out a friendly platoon’s command squad.
“If the gunship hadn’t been shot down soon afterwards, I would have found the son-of-a-bitch pilot and killed him myself,” said one of the handful of troopers who managed to reach friendly lines after the battle.
Under heavy fire, the remnants of the company fell back, but the Tau troops in the rear finally attacked to close off the Imperial route of retreat. Two teams of Crisis Suits slaughtered two infantry squads in the first minutes of this attack, and the company’s armored support came under intense fire.
One Lemon Russ tank managed, under the confusion, to slip down a narrow forest trail, desperately negotiating its way through the trees in its path, and escaped.
“Defeat is rarely forgiven in the Imperial Guard,” Stark said in summing up the battle. “But it cannot be denied that the 17th put up a good fight in a tactically impossible situation. The fact that the entire company went down fighting is evidence of the loyalty and resilience of our troops.”
TheGM: This fight was a fiasco for the Imperials. Only a single tank and half a dozen troopers got off the table!
This is Battle #2 of my five-battle mini-campaign for the coronavirus era. In terms of victory points, the score was 17 v.p. for the Tau and only 1—a big, fat ONE—for the Imperials. (Victory points were earned for destroyed units, and I didn’t give the Imperials any points for the Crisis Suits that suffered a Deep Strike Mishap.)
What happened? Well, the scenario was slanted heavily against the defenders. The scenario, Armored Onslaught (War Zone Damaocles: Mont’Ka: The Rules (2015-7th Edition 40K), is designed to recreate a “Blitzkrieg” situation, where the attacks have broken through the lines and are running amok. So, the Tau were able to bring reinforcements behind the Imperials, as well as conduct Deep Strikes.
The randomly placed terrain also helped the Tau. At first, the placement of woods on each shoulder of the Imperial front lines appeared to create a bottleneck for the attackers, but it also screened the Tau armor, which was able to pummel the Imperial left flank without taking counterfire.
(The Imperial armor was deployed on the right flank, so if the Tau armor advanced, it would be flanked. But the Tau armor were in range, had line f fire against the center and right, and stayed behind the tree line.)
Indeed, the Tau were happy just to shoot and, once the Deep Strikes began, the Imperial right flank was overwhelmed. The right flank attempted to retreat, but there was a single copse of woods that, as it turned out, gave the Tau reinforcements a place to form up without threat of fire. They just waited until the right moment to block the Imperial retreat and, by that point, the Imperials were too weak to break out.
Again, it could be said that I, playing a solo game, was too meek with the Imperials. But, really, I had Tau to my front, to my rear, and dropping amidst the Imperials. It might not have been so lopsided if someone else had played the Imperials (and only wore one command hat), but I think the scenario isn’t balanced (although a fun fight nonetheless).
So now what? The Tau clearly can continue their advance on Port Aruna, and the Tau roar ahead in collective victory points. So, the campaign is for the Tau to lose.
The next battle involves an Imperial counterattack that attempts to blunt the Tau success. I will try to put on my commissar’s cap and play the Imperials for all their worth.
Click here to return to Part 1 of this battle.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.